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Make-up Alumna Zoe Cooper: From NIDA to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

New: We’ve opened up a couple more places for the 2024 intake. Applications forNIDA’s CUA51020 Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialist Make-up Services) are open until 22 January 2024.

NIDA Make-up alumna Zoe Cooper shares her creative journey from NIDA to Disney’s stage musical Beauty and the Beast. Fascinated by make-up and horror effects since the age of 12, NIDA equipped Zoe with the foundation skills to work on large-scale productions.

Where did you grow up? Did you always want to pursue a creative/artistic career when you were younger?

I grew up around the Campbelltown area, and I’m still there. When I was younger, I really had no idea what I wanted to do in life, but I was always a really creative person, always painting, drawing, or playing music.

What made you decide that you want to study Wig, Hair, Make-up, and Special Effects (SFX) at NIDA?

I became really interested in make-up, SFX, and horror when I was 12. Later, when I was in year 12, one of my art teachers really wanted me to pursue a make up-based body of work for my HSC and suggested NIDA to me. I also became really interested in musical theatre and the different roles and possibilities I could have after seeing shows at the Capitol Theatre and Campbelltown Theatre.

What can you share about your time and training at NIDA? Including any internships/work experience on productions?

During NIDA, we got to work on quite a few fun productions and I enjoyed all of them. Especially our collaboration with Triple J which awakened my enjoyment of working on music videos – since graduating, I’ve gotten to work on a couple of really fun ones with a band called Chaperone. Getting to work on different projects such as the Triple J collab and Festival of Emerging Artists were awesome experiences to get to know and work with directing and design students and building up professional relationships.

Can you tell us about your position on the production of Beauty and the Beast and what it requires you to do pre, during and post-show?

On Beauty, I am a local wig assistant. Pre-show is all about getting the wigs all tidied up from the show before. As a local assistant, I handle the ensemble wigs, which really need a lot of help after certain numbers (namely Be Our Guest). We also make sure to get all starting wigs on the ensemble – I also get the children playing Chip that day ready for the performance as well. During the show, it is breezy, getting ensemble members in and out of wigs, a handful of quick changes, and tidying any wigs in the downtime. Post-show is all about getting the wigs cleaned up for the next show – cleaning glue off wig lace and tidying up wigs ready for the next show.

Zoe Cooper and Melissa Katherine

Left, Hair and Wig Assistant Melissa Katherine and 2022 CUA51020 Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialist Make-up Services) alumna Zoe Cooper at Beauty and the Beast – The Musical ‘s opening night in Sydney, Capitol Theatre.

How do you feel NIDA prepared you for applying and working with such a large production company like Disney?

When I came to NIDA, I had no wig or hair experience at all, so the course definitely gave me the basic skills I needed as a base to build upon while I’ve been learning at Beauty. It also gave me the experience of working under a department head and learning the structure of professional theatre.

How would you describe your personal artist style and how did NIDA help you find it?

I’ve always had quite a quirky and more out-there artist style, and NIDA helped solidify that. I’ve always wanted to do more artsy or theatre make-up, and certain projects at NIDA really made me realise that was what I wanted. While glam make-up is amazing and bridal make-up artists have endless amounts of skill, I realised I’m not suited to that kind of stressful environment, and theatre is a different kind of stress.

What are your make-up and hair must-haves in your kit?

My make-up must-have is the RCMA Kevin James Bennett foundation palette. I only ever need to carry a handful of foundations in my kit because with this palette, I can mix any foundation colour I need. I feel there is never an excuse to not be able to match your model or client’s foundation shade. My hair must-have is always hairspray, any brand. Whether there’s a hair out of place, or I’m in drag and need a hefty hairspray, it always comes in handy.

What advice would you give to aspiring hair and make-up artists, especially those thinking of studying the Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialist Make-up Services) course at NIDA?

I would definitely say build up your portfolio and experience. Before starting at NIDA, I worked with Campbelltown Theatre for a year, which really helped as I didn’t feel so out of my depth at NIDA. I would also say to build up your portfolio with varying styles and projects, so you really get a feel for what you prefer.

What is next for you, Zoe?

I’m definitely in my wig styling era and am planning to buy more wigs for myself and continue practicing and experimenting with style – the learning never stops! I’m also looking forward to expanding my music video portfolio and exploring new opportunities within professional and community theatre. But most importantly, I’m looking forward to slaying every day.